Closing out the week, and continuing to work my way through some more of last year’s releases — today I think we’ll explore some Chinese music. Specifically, the music of one particular band from the city of Dalian, which is located at the northern end of the Yellow Sea, just across the bay from North Korea.
I’ll be sharing their three most recent albums with you this afternoon. But it may be worth noting that this group has been active and productive for more than two decades now — and the material we’re covering will actually be their ninth, tenth, and eleventh albums! So if you like what you’re hearing, please feel free to continue digging into it on your own.
Wang Wen – Sweet Home, Go! (Pelagic Records / Space Circle, 19 October 2016)
Wang Wen – Invisible City (Pelagic Records / Space Circle, 25 September 2018)
Wang Wen – 100,000 Whys (Pelagic Records / Space Circle, 24 September 2021)
Wang Wen‘s music can best be described as a progressive, almost-entirely-instrumental, post rock sound. But they also incorporate a bunch of influences, from classical to modern jazz. In addition to the standard guitars/bass/drums/keyboards, the arrangements are rounded out by various orchestral string and brass instruments. Particularly on 2016’s Sweet Home, Go! — a monster of an album well over an hour long, with most of the songs ranging between ten to fourteen minutes — some tracks will feature violins or cello, elsewhere trumpets or various tenor/baritone horns, and in another spot the piano or flute may get highlighted.
The 2018 follow-up Invisible City (this one just under an hour) feels reminiscent of the latter (circa early 1980s) output of certain 70s prog-rock groups, given how in some ways it presents more of a synth-driven pop vibe with straight rock rhythms, but at the same time the occasional nonstandard rock band instrument (horns or mallet percussion, for example) or bizarre outer-space tone makes it clear we are still listening to a very creative, experimental, progressive ensemble.
Newest release 100,000 Whys also hits right around that one-hour mark — a pendulum that swings even farther in either direction: between dreamy, mellow, droney post-rock and heavier, more intense prog-rock that pushes its way right out into the stratosphere. All three releases, though, occupy a fairly similar sonic spectrum, and all have plenty of moments that build to epic heights.
You may also wish to check out an assortment of other merchandise — such as an iPhone case or a jigsaw puzzle — here.
This video entitled Seven Thousand Hows documents the band’s journey to Nepal just after the release of their 2016 album, for a concert benefiting those affected by the devastating earthquake that hit the area in 2015:
And the following videos are taken from live performances of two songs from new album 100,000 Whys:
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